A while ago, I had a student in my advanced beginning quilt class ask me if it was really important to set your seams after sewing them. The short answer is “YES!”.
If you’re wondering what it means to set a seam, let me tell you. It’s when you press your seam flat (just as it was sewn) before pressing it open or to one side:
What does this do? It sinks (or sets) your stitches into the fabric and really allows your seam to be pressed flat in the next step. It also smooths out any wrinkles or puckers which can be caused by tension issues or uneven stitches.
I like to press my seams to one side or the other rather than pressing them open. I think this makes a stronger seam and I like being able to “lock” opposing seams when I’m constructing a block. Here’s an example of a well-nested seam:
I almost always press my seams (after setting them) from the right side. I use my fingers to separate and flatten the seam and then I press it from the right side. Here is what my method looks like:
Also, I rarely use steam when pressing. I think it has a tendency to distort the fabric. If I have really bulky seams, then I like to use a bit of spray starch to make the piece flat.
In general, I press my seams towards the darker fabric. However, it depends on the construction of the block or the quilt. I want my seams to be opposing so sometimes I need to press towards the lighter fabric to make that happen.
When I press seams for a four-patch, I like to “pop” the center of the unit to make the center lay flat. The seams spiral around the center in one direction. It looks like this:
I hate to share this next picture with you, but maybe you will learn from my silly mistake.
I know. Gasp! I was cutting something else and I didn’t realize this block was underneath it. I knew you guys would sympathize with me.
At least I only have to replace the top row. And at least I took pictures before this happened. Glass half full :-).